Featuring America's Home Inspector: Nationally Syndicated Columnist, Barry Stone

The House Detective:  by Barry Stone, Certified Home Inspector

Dear Barry:We are buying a house. The home inspection is scheduled for next week, but we’re not sure what to do once we get the report. Is the inspection report just for our information, or can we use it to negotiate with the sellers? Can we walk away from the deal if we don’t like the report, or are we obligated to go ahead with the purchase? What can you tell us about this?  Alan

Dear Alan:  A home inspection empowers you with essential options as a buyer, but with some limitations. In the majority of home sales, the deal is contingent upon the buyers’ acceptance of the home inspection report.  This means that you, as buyer, have a specified number of days to accept or decline the property in “as is” condition.  If you decline acceptance, you have four basic choices:

1)             Ask the sellers to make a few repairs;

2)             Ask the sellers to make many repairs;

2)             Ask the sellers to reduce the sales price;

3)             Decline to purchase the property.

If you request repairs or a price adjustment, based upon the home inspection report, the sellers also have choices.  They can:

1)            Agree to all of your requests;

2)            Agree to some of your requests;

3)            Agree to none of your requests;

4)            Tell you to take it as-is or to take a walk

The sellers’ only obligation is to address defects that are named in the purchase contact or required by state and local laws.  If the contract specifies an “as is” sale, the sellers may refuse to make repairs of any kind or to adjust the price in any way.  Lawful exceptions may include strapping water heaters for earthquake safety, providing smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in specified locations, or upgrading plumbing fixtures for water conservation.

As long as you are in the contingency period of your transaction, the choice to buy the property or to walk away from the deal is entirely yours. This is your discovery period, the time to learn what you are buying and to decide whether to proceed with the purchase or to renegotiate the terms of the sale.